It comes as no surprise that humans cannot be disconnected from nature. Our bodies are wired for thriving on this planet, with our circadian and circ-annual rhythms intimately tied to the daily and yearly cycles of nature. We need fresh water, fresh foods, physical connection to other people and animals, and we need to experience the healing power of nature every day to maintain our health. You may quickly notice how a change in weather or season affects your mood and mental state, or how your digestion may thrive in summer but become more troublesome in winter. These are just some of the subtle ways nature impacts our health and state of balance.
The human body is wired for bliss. We function optimally when we have minimal internal or external resistance to healing. Experiencing nature, and feeling being a part of nature and it’s natural rhythms, brings our body and physiology as close to this state of internal bliss as possible.
Ecopsychology is a fascinating area of health exploration that looks at the comprehensive benefits of nature on our overall health - physically, emotionally and mentally. Spending time in nature has consistently been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and decrease stress, lower blood pressure, improve our mood & mental health and enhance immune function. Why is this? Perhaps a better way to think about our body’s improved response in nature is to consider what happens to our body in the absence of nature.
When we are disconnected from nature, we can experience what is unofficially known as Nature Deficit Disorder. Our mood and mental health decline. Our ability to digest and absorb foods declines (especially if we are consuming highly processed, farther-from-the-source foods). Our vitamin D levels drop dramatically. We can experience symptoms of isolation and depression, and our emotional health suffers. Ultimately, over time our vitality dramatically suffers.
When our body feels aligned, connected and safe in nature, we are far more likely to experience greater health long term. Our resistance to healing decreases, and our innate ability to find balance increases.
Studies show we need at least two hours per week basking in nature in order to fully feel the healing effect of nature. This can be all at once, or in divided nature sessions, but 120 minutes each week is key. This doesn't mean you need to find a forest or an ocean each time to experience nature. This can mean your local park, planting and tending to a personal patio garden, hanging out with the trees a little more on your daily city walk, or just experience the morning sun on your face for 17 minutes a day. Use all of your senses to experience any part of nature. It does not have to be entirely visual. Breathe in the air. Feel warmth or rain on your skin. Listen to the sounds around you of birds, wind and crickets. Expand your eyes to see wide by looking at the sky or a place with a view of nature (this is a big difference from staring at a screen!). The state of your mind and mood will nearly instantly change when you do this.
Feel the morning sun on your face for 17 minutes a day
Look at the sky for 3-4 minutes at a time to expand your eyes and vision
Grow and tend to a rosemary, basil or houseplant plant in your home
Take a walk in your local park each day (without the headphones)
Go on a hike on the weekend
Go tree climbing with your kids (or alone!)
Fly a kite on a warm spring day
Open your window and listen when it rains
Stop and smell the flowers, or give one to a friend or stranger
Walk barefoot in the grass
Take deep breaths after a rainstorm to smell the aliveness of the earth
Pause when you hear the birds sing, and appreciate the song
Sit outdoors and sketch what you see
Learn to identify trees, flowers, or birds on your daily walk
Enjoy your morning Matcha tea, or evening meal al fresco
For further reading on how nature impacts our health and happiness, explore The Nature Fix and experience the many ways you, too, are impacted by the profound ways nature can wire your body for bliss.